To tank or not to tank: When winning just isn’t all that important

I was watching Lakers-Nuggets Game Five the other night.  You remember that game in Los the Staples Center where Kobe Bryant scored 43, yet his team still couldn’t close out the series?

All anyone in the bar could talk about was whether the Lakers wanted to close things out that night, or whether it was more conducive for them to drop a game, let the series go a game or two longer, thereby allowing for the return of the oft-suspended, former defensive player of the year and recurring troublemaker, Metta World Peace.

Peace (that just sounds so silly) was suspended seven games for catching the back of James Harden’s head with an allegedly, inadvertent elbow.  Accordingly, Los Angeles has had to play their opening series against the Nuggets without him.  After a Game Six loss, the series has gone a full seven games.

Now I, like many, thought the Lakers beating Denver was a foregone conclusion, with or without Peace (still sounds funny).  Next up for L.A., assuming they can get past Denver, is the second-seeded Oklahoma Thunder.   Wouldn’t it make sense for the Lakers to let their opening series run long in order to a) to give their next round opponent a little time to cool off and b) allow Peace the time needed to serve that seven-game suspension.

I’m not crying conspiracy theory, nor am I suggesting the Lakers intentionally tanked a game, but isn’t it possible that, with all that’s at stake, they simply didn’t try their hardest?  What is L.A.’s incentive to win and win now if they know they can just win later and have their defensive stopper back for the next playoff series?

Therein lies the rub.  What we have here is a flawed sports model.  Had the league simply suspended Peace, not necessarily for x amount of games, but rather for the entire first round, regardless of how long it went, do you think the Lakers would consider letting the series go longer than necessary, not that they are now, wink wink.

The same thing happens in the NFL.  Remember that whole “Suck for Luck” campaign?  By virtue of having the worst record in the league, the Indianapolis Colts were rewarded rights to the top pick in the college draft.  So what was their incentive to win?  Why wouldn’t they lose a game or two (or fourteen) if it meant solidifying the future of the franchise?

That’s one reason why the NBA has repeatedly altered its draft structure to ensure that the worst team in the league wouldn’t automatically win the rights to the top draft pick, just increased odds of doing so.

What if a team tanks a game, or perhaps that’s a harsh word, let me rephrase.  Let’s say a team doesn’t give it their all.  They’ve already secured a playoff spot but a late, regular-season loss might give them a more favorable match-up in the post-season?  Is losing in the short term in order to win in the long term inherently immoral or simply the right thing to do?  Have to crack a few eggs, right?

Then again, maybe there is no right or wrong answer, and it’s just sports, men doing their jobs in pads and gym shorts purely for our enjoyment.  I’m not suggesting that athletes at the highest level aren’t driven to compete every second of every play.  They probably are.

But if it’s in their best interest not to do so, then let me ask you… why would they?

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19 Replies to “To tank or not to tank: When winning just isn’t all that important”

  1. Pingback: - BallHyped, NBA | BallHyped Sports Blogs

  2. Q.”But if it’s in their best interest not to do so, then let me ask you… why would they?
    A. They wouldn’t.

  3. Exactly, Aer.

    Let me add that I don’t mean to discredit the Nuggets or their efforts to take down Los Angeles in this series. It’s gone on longer than I expected.

    But if the Lakers come out and spank Denver in Game Seven, then, well, we have something to talk about, don’t we?

  4. Other than Kobe , who was said to be actually physically sick . Who on that team on , Thursday night was suffering from a malady ? The rest of that squad was healthy and Bryant was suffering from gastroenteritis . But somehow he throws down 30 plus points and adds in a few assists .

    Bynum in his postgame interview said he felt bad .. Oh really !

    How much would you pay to see Cris Carter and Bill Romanowski ” throw down ” , in light of Carter’s claims about the former NFL defensive player ? Would you pay to see them in a no-holds barred cage match ?


  5. And if you’re the Nuggets’ Chris Anderson , wouldn’t you at this juncture keep your mouth shut and refuse to answer questions why the police with a warrant searched your house and took away multiple electronic devices ? Rumors of kiddie p_rn apparently and a child sex-ploitation ring . Oh God !

    Denver Nuggets’ Chris Andersen has house searched by police team charged with investigating child predators

    Andersen has not been arrested and no arrest warrant has been issued

    The Nuggets excuse Chris ‘Birdman’ Anderson from all team related activities while he deals with the reported investigations.

    DENVER – Denver Nuggets reserve center Chris “Birdman” Andersen was excused indefinitely from all team-related activities after sheriff’s deputies searched his home Thursday as part of an investigation by the department’s Internet Crimes Against Children unit.

    The team announced its decision shortly before the Nuggets faced the Los Angeles Lakers in Game 6 of their playoff series. The team said Anderson was excused “as he deals with the reported investigation” and declined further comment.

    The 10th-year pro hasn’t played in the postseason after averaging 5.3 points and 4.6 rebounds during the regular season.

    Douglas County Sheriff’s spokesman Ron Hanavan confirmed that the search took place. Andersen has not been arrested and Hanavan said no arrest warrant has been issued.

    The department began investigating Andersen in February after receiving information from a law enforcement agency in California. Hanavan declined to release details, including the nature of any pending charges, citing an ongoing investigation. He said they’re asking that the case, including the search warrant, be sealed.


    Click on link to view in full .


    tophatal ……..

  6. Al…

    Bynum and Gasol went a combined 5-21 from the floor last night. They’re lucky Kobe didn’t have them kicked off the team.

    I fully expect a dominant contribution from them in Game Seven. Otherwise, they’ll be going fishing.

    And I’d pay to see Carter and Romo go at it, although I doubt that fight would last very long.

  7. There haven’t been any details yet released in the Andersen case so I’m going to withhold judgment. This has to be a distraction for Denver for Game 7, no? Is he allowed to play?

  8. Bowers is a big loss for the Bucs, Al, as they’re already lacking depth at the position.

    Despite his repeated injuries, at least the kid is still young, so wishful thinking hasn’t written him off just yet.

    Or has it?

  9. Although they are better off with Artest not missing any of the Thunder series, they’re playing with fire. Most of the guys on the team can’t turn the switch on and off at will.

    Also, their effort has been inconsistent all season, not just now – so I don’t know how much this is tanking and how much is just the way they approach the game.

  10. Chris, you bring up an interesting topic. Pre-90’s tanking for any reason was taboo. They would cite the integrity of the game and the respect for other teams chances. IOW, give them your best shot in hopes of reciprication down the road. This premise started to fade away in the early 90’s to the present tense where it’s become ME-ME and fck everybody else. The Lords don’t step in like they should. Goodell made some half ass attempt to instruct clinchers to play all out versus bubble teams. They virtually gave him the finger.

    The bar buzz about LA dropping a playoff game to let the series go longer it TOO assinine to address. An abundance of alcohol brings out the best in conspiracy theorists.

    Birdman has serious problems down the road. With most computer aided crimes, the police M.O. initially is to seize the evidence and follow-up with arrests after they are done dissecting it. They have X amount of days to make arrest. If Birdman is/when indicted he should use the Peter Townshend defense. Claim he was researching kiddie-porn because he was abused as a child. Kinda like the guitars he’d smash after “Who” concerts. They are sick bastards!!

  11. And for all the Lakers fans out there, D, that’s a sad thought.

    I still think that team has enough talent to win it all, I guess mostly because of Kobe, as well as Gasol and Bynum, but I guess the supporting cast isn’t there for this team like it has been in years past.

    That’s why I’m sticking with Miami to go all the way.

  12. Man, that’s horrible stuff about Birdman, RB. Let’s hope none of that’s true.

    And you’re right, the old school pretty much always taught us that winning takes care of everything else.

    Just win the games and what else is there? Screw losing and jockeying for some sort of position.

  13. It’s a hard thing to “legislate” out of sports in general because, aside from Roger Goodell and GOD, no one can read the minds or the output intent in any athletes. There’s no doubt players coast at times on the field/court…and some of them are actually intelligent enough to know when there is an advantage to do so. Either they individually will benefit by pulling up (i.e. resting) or the team will benefit by pulling up (i.e. better positioning for the future, collective rest, etc.). In the instance of World Peace, as soon as the verdict was announced speculation began as to whether or not the Lakers would benefit by extending their first series. I agree that is a loophole easily closed. Sit down for an entire series…two series…whatever.

  14. Chris

    Law enforcement doesn’t obtain a search warrant to come to remove stuff from your home without cause . Hence Andersen may well have some explaining to do .

    The loss of Bowers is one thing so let’s hope that this Bucs’ team can make up for that profound disappointment of last season . They’ve spent a slew of money on those free agent signings . So I would hate to see this season go up in flames ! The NFC South is going to be one hell of a dog-fight a for all of the teams concerned .

    Harden in no uncertain way will make sure that MWP ends up being his bi_ch in this upcoming series .

    So the Texas Rangers’ front office will have to back up a Brinks truck if they hope to resign Josh Hamilton . Guy’s been on a tear and then some !

    tophatal ……….

  15. SA…

    All the while writing this, I kept thinking about the average Joe at his desk. Is he giving it his all every second or every day or is he e-mailing his buddies about fantasy football every chance he gets?

    For some reason, we hold athletes to a higher standard, saying hypothetically, oh we’d never do that, when we’re just as lazy as the next guy.

    But that still doesn’t change the fact that the Yankees winning the AL East last year just wasn’t as important as resting their starting rotation for the playoffs.

  16. If you’re Texas, I don’t see how you can not re-sign Hamilton, Al, although I haven’t exactly seen their coffers.

    I’m wondering if a World Series victory in Arlington this year will have any effect on their decision.

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